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Whidbey Island
and The Legend of Deception Pass

Chapter Seven

Dedicating the Bridge on July 31, 1935

On a sunny July 31, 1935, approximately 12,000 people gathered for Deception Pass Bridge's dedication ceremony. Governor Clarence D. Martin, and past and current state and local officials, drum and bugle corps, high school bands, bridge association members, state highway representatives and the general contractors took part in the festivities, along with people from surrounding counties, Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.

Washington State Rep. Pearl Wanamaker cut the ribbon with specially crafted silver scissors as assembled parties marched from either side to the bridge center. All then proceeded to the Cranberry Lake picnic grounds for more speeches, entertainment and food, and CCC workers quit counting the cars passing over the bridge as the first hour numbered 700! By Sunday, August 4, 3,114 cars had crossed and on the following Sunday the number rose to 4,895. An estimated several million today cross the bridge each year.

If the reader isn't old enough to remember the year 1935, some of the "top stories" of that era are as follows:

Island County's new Sheriff Thomas W. Clark, was sworn in as the youngest Sheriff in the state. Other officers, all under the age of 30 taking office that spring were Chester Adair, Prosecuting Attorney; Joe W. Libbey, County Clerk; and Allan Nienhuis, County Treasurer.

At last, after years of talking, a Social Security program went before Congress in 1935, with chances that it would become law that year.

In May 1935, a new state retail sales tax went into effect, sales tokens (ten for a penny) were circulated by merchants to help collect the tax. The unpopular tax tokens, aluminum with a hole in the center, were called "Martin Money" after the Governor, and citizens were quoted as being unanimously against the tax. And at 7 p.m. July 31, 1935, at the CCC Camp in the park, the Deception Pass Bridge Dedication dinner was held at 75 cents per plate!

The Deception Pass bridge, linking two rocky promontories on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, in the nearly 70 years since its dedication, has changed Whidbey Island, lending its woodland and water heritage to home seekers and promoting tourism from all over the United States and Canada.

Before the bridge, a tourist in Seattle took a boat, sailed northward, stopping at small hamlets on Whidbey and eventually landing at the Whid Isle Inn (now Captain Whidbey) for a weekend. Passengers and produce all came to Whidbey by boats that ran one trip to Seattle each day, a 12-14 hour trip. With the bridge, a motorist could head north for Mount Vernon, take a left cutoff toward Anacortes, then the road past Mount Erie to Deception Pass Bridge, a Northwest monument. Campers found Deception Pass State Park a delightful refuge, made habitable by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at both Bowman's Bay and Cranberry Lake.

Old-growth timber looms high above the highway through the Park, as trails wind through Oregon grape, fern, and salal leading to West Beach, and Goose Rock on the Whidbey side, and on Fidalgo, the top of the promontory a historic site where a state prison camp was once located and prisoners cut rock that would be used building Seattle's waterfront.

North Beach, a narrow strip of rock and sand just west of the bridge, is the perfect place for a picnic, or a stroll along a wave-lapped shore.

Cranberry Lake, now a freshwater body, is an ideal spot for swimming or canoeing, while fishermen find a small boat a refreshing method of disregarding the trials of the day. At one time, the lake rose and fell with the tide, with an opening to salt water. But gradually the opening filled with sand and rock and Cranberry Lake became freshwater, with an extensive cranberry bog on its south side. When the first settlers came in the 1850s they found the Indians picked the cranberries and traded them to the settlers.

The waters of Deception Pass a century and a half ago, were rife with salmon; berries grew everywhere and wildlife made the Islands their home. William Engle who came to the Coupeville area in the early 1850s told how the ship upon which he sailed to Whidbey, stopped outside the Pass to wait until the tide changed before venturing through. And all around, as far as he could see, fish were leaping from the waters into the air, a fisherman's paradise!

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